Hemlock Falls Loop

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Short hike to two beautiful waterfalls and a brook.

1.8 or 1.2 miles. Easy; wide dirt path with minor roots and rocks. Full hike has a small stream crossing and a short uphill/downhill.

Our two cents:

Short hike packs two waterfalls and a little brook. Good for beginners and kids.

Great for a quick cold-weather hike as the falls are interesting and especially beautiful when frozen.

Falls vary depending on rainfall and can be minimal in dry conditions. Some road noise. This area and entire park in general is VERY popular.


Map/Books:

There are large maps posted on kiosks; one at the parking area and one along the way. A smaller trail map plaque at an intersection.

The map available linked at the bottom of the park page is OK (in Hike Info above) but the color and waterproof SMR Map that can be ordered from the South Mountain Conservancy is better.

They also offer a “Trail Guide to the South Mountain Reservation” booklet that describes individual trails. Other hikes in this park are in 50 Hikes in New Jersey and Hiking New Jersey.

South Mountain Res trail sign

Parking: N40.75567° W74.29172°

2-8 Cherry Ln, West Orange, NJ 07052. Medium-sized paved lot.

An alternate smaller lot closer to the falls is off of South Orange Ave, which will shorten the hike.

Restrooms:

Portable toilets in the lot. According to the trail map, these should be available year-round.


Hike Directions:

Overview: YELLOW (Lenape) – RED DOT on WHITE (Hemlock Falls Loop) – YELLOW (Lenape).

0.0 – The trailhead is across from the lot, opposite a trail info kiosk with a large park map (though the kiosk may be slightly hidden if cars are parked around it)

There are ORANGE and GREEN blazes as well as YELLOW at the trailhead. Start following YELLOW (Lenape) on a wide footpath through a forest.

Wide level dirt path
Yellow and orange blazes on a tall tree

0.2 – YELLOW (Lenape) turns RIGHT (at a small trail map plaque) and soon crosses a bridge over South Orange Ave.

Pedestrian bridge over a road

Follow YELLOW (Lenape) when it turns RIGHT, with a small parking lot visible off to the left (this an alternate starting area).

0.4 – Continue following YELLOW (Lenape) as it turns LEFT at an intersection with a trail info kiosk with a map.

Trail intersection with map kiosk
Map kiosk near yellow and white blazes on a tree

Pass a stone bridge on the right and small Hobble Falls comes in to view.

Stone bridge near Hobble Falls

Hobble Falls is a small waterfall on the left side.

Hobble Falls frozen

Fun Fact: Older maps may have this as “Cobble” Falls.

Continue following YELLOW (Lenape).

0.6 – Cross a stone bridge at the base of Hemlock Falls. At 25 feet, these are the tallest falls in the park.

Hemlock Falls with a brook in the foreground

The falls vary depending on water flow, so they are best after heavy rain or when it’s very cold out.

Close up of frozen Hemlock Falls

A period of cold temperatures will freeze the waterfall nearly solid and into an icy sculpture.

Top of a frozen waterfall
Frozen cascades at the bottom of a waterfall

In winter there may be frozen cascades running over the cliff face just past Hemlock Falls.

Frozen cascade on a cliff

When done enjoying the falls from below, backtrack over the stone bridge to the stone steps.

// Shorter, 1.2 miles: Retrace the route back from Hemlock Falls, skipping the loop that starts up the stairs. //

Take the steps up, now following RED DOT on WHITE (Hemlock Falls Loop).

Stone steps near Hemlock Falls

The steps curve up to the top for views of Hemlock Falls from above and of Hemlock Brook feeding the falls.

View from over Hemlock Falls and Brook

There are a few benches, and the path is briefly paved in this section.

Exercise caution if you venture from the path and on to the rocks for a closer look at the falls – there are no guardrails.

Frozen Hemlock Falls

0.8 – Continue following RED DOT on WHITE (Hemlock Falls Loop) as it veers to the RIGHT off of the pavement and back on a trail.

Continue following RED DOT on WHITE (Hemlock Falls Loop) as it crosses Hemlock Brook.

Logs placed over a frozen brook

The brook was frozen the day we hiked. Logs had been placed across the ice, but this may be tricky if the water is high.

Frozen Hemlock Brook

Continue following RED DOT on WHITE (Hemlock Falls Loop) as it climbs uphill. Pass an unmarked woods road.

The trail curves around with views down to the frozen cascades and falls but these will be obscured when leaves are on the trees.

Red dot on white trail marker in the foreground with ice cascades in the distance

From here the size of the cascades can be seen – note the person for scale.

Ice cascading down a cliff

Hemlock Falls comes into view in just a bit.

Hemlock Falls from a distance

1.2 – Continue following RED DOT on WHITE (Hemlock Falls Loop) as it veers RIGHT. [YELLOW (Lenape) continues to the left.]

The trail switchbacks downhill.

Cross over a stone bridge and turn LEFT to now follow YELLOW (Lenape), retracing the route from earlier.

Stone bridge

1.4 – Turn RIGHT at the trail info kiosk and continue following YELLOW (Lenape).

Turn LEFT to continue following YELLOW (Lenape). [The small alternate parking lot is ahead if you’ve started there.]

Cross the pedestrian bridge over South Orange Ave again.

1.6 – Shortly, veer LEFT at the small trail map plaque and follow YELLOW (Lenape) back to the lot.


Hiked: 1/31/21.